Academic technology confidence levels vs ability in first-year traditional and non-traditional undergraduates

Published date19 September 2016
Date19 September 2016
AuthorMichelle Eichelberger,Bonnie Imler
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Information behaviour & retrieval,Information user studies,Metadata,Information & knowledge management,Information & communications technology,Internet
Academic technology confidence
levels vs ability in first-year
traditional and non-traditional
Michelle Eichelberger
Alfred C. OConnell Library, Genesee Community College,
Batavia, New York, USA, and
Bonnie Imler
Robert E. Eiche Library, Penn State Altoona, Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the technology confidence, skills, and post-skills-
test emotions in traditional (younger than 24 years old) and non-traditional (24 and older) first-year
college students at three undergraduate campuses in the Northeastern USA.
Design/methodology/approach Totally, 39 college freshmen from three college campuses were
recruited for the study. An online test environment and screen recording software were used to
measure student proficiency in using PDFs, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel,
Gmail, and Windows. Data were collected in September 2013.
Findings The majority of the students struggled with at least one facet of academic software.
Traditional students were more confident than non-traditional students in their technology skills,
but they did not score any higher on the skills test. Students who placed at the high end and low end of
the test results curve most accurately assessed their technology skills, and their post-test feelings were
the most appropriate in light of their test results. A large percentage of the traditional aged students
were overconfident about their skills and self-identified as happyor wonderfuleven after
performing poorly on the test.
Originality/value Having concrete data about student technology skills, rather than anecdotal data
from Reference Desk interactions, can help librarians design improved instruction and tutorials that
target areas of student technology weakness. In addition, there have been no studies that examine
student immediate emotional response to test performance in this type of testing environment.
Keywords Academic libraries, Technology, Students, Computer software, Reference services,
Software tools
Paper type Research paper
Over the past several decades, as libraries have increased their number of student
workstations, many academic libraries have expanded their services to offer help with
the academic software (Microsoft Office, e-mail software, and course-specific software)
accessible from these machines. One of the challenges that librarians face in helping
students with this software is that the students often do not realize that they
need technical help until just before their assignment is due, at which point it might be
too late to locate an IT professional. After dealing with last-minute questions for
several years at the Reference Desk, librarians at three undergraduate academic
institutions in the northeast designed a study to assess the technology skills of
incoming first-year college students, identify the technology confidence levels of these
students, and determine whether or not their technology abilities, or lack thereof,
were of concern to the students.
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 34 No. 3, 2016
pp. 468-479
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/LHT-03-2016-0032
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